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Explained: Who is Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire who will spend 12 days on ISS?

Yusaku Maezawa and another space tourist Yozo Hirano–who will document the billionaire’s space flight–made the trip led by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.

Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa reacts as he speaks with his family after donning space suits shortly before the launch to the International Space Station (ISS) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, December 8, 2021. (Reuters)

Billionaire Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa reached the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday for a 12-day trip, during which time he will complete 100 tasks in space, including playing a game of badminton.

Maezawa and another space tourist Yozo Hirano–who will document the billionaire’s space flight–made the trip led by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.

The three reached the ISS aboard a Soyuz MS-20 that took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Maezawa and Hirano are flying as part of a contract signed between the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Space Adventures in 2019, for a short-term spaceflight of two non-professional astronauts to the ISS. Their flight was announced in May. Space Adventures is a private company founded in 1997 with the aim of offering “bookable space-related adventures”.

Tourists in space

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Companies including Virgin Atlantic, SpaceX, XCOR Aerospace, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Armadillo Aerospace are working on providing space tourism services to people.

But Space Adventures is the only private company to send paying customers to orbital space so far, a report by the Congressional Research Service notes. In 2004, test pilot Mike Melville became the first private astronaut to fly beyond the Karman Line (recognised as the edge of space).

In this photo released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, the Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with Soyuz MS-20 space ship carrying Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, spaceflight participants Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano of Japan to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. (AP/PTI)

In 2008, billionaire video game developer Richard Garriott became the sixth private citizen to fly to space. As per media reports, Garriott paid over $30 million to spend about 12 days at the ISS, for which he traveled aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

With Wednesday’s fight, the Russian space agency resumed crewed space tourism flights after a period of 12 years. In 2001, American millionaire Dennis Tito (also a customer of Space Adventures) became the first non-astronaut to go into space, but in 2010, the space agency suspended its space program.


In October, “Challenge” became the first feature length film to be shot in space. The movie’s director Klim Shipenko, along with Russian actress Yulia Peresild who is playing the lead role, and a cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft towards the ISS in October. Shipenko and Peresild also spent 12 days on the ISS and shot some segments of the film under a commercial agreement between Roscosmos and some Moscow-based media entities.

Who is Yusaku Maezawa?

Maezawa, 46, is the founder of Zozo Inc., an online retail brand. He founded Japan’s largest online shopping mall in 1998 and resigned as its CEO in September 2019, selling most of his stake to Yahoo Japan.

Maezawa also holds ambitions to take a trip to the Moon in 2023 in partnership with SpaceX. In 2018, Elon Musk announced that his company SpaceX would send him to the Moon as its first private customer.


His bio on Twitter reads, “First civilian to fly around the moon on @SpaceX’s Starship in 2023 @dearMoonProject, and go to the ISS on Soyuz in Dec 8th 2021.” He plans to take eight people along with him for the 2023 mission to the Moon.

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First published on: 09-12-2021 at 10:40:30 pm
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